By Sujit Bhar
Freedom fighter, social reformist and people’s leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak had said: “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.” On August 15, India’s 75th Independence Day, India will have enjoyed 74 years of swaraj, 74 tumultuous and proud years, with highs and lows, with sorrow and joy, but never with regret.
The biggest and proudest possessions of a nation are its people, its leaders its reformers, its children. If the country has progressed it is because of its people. If the country has won wars, it is because the people won them. And if the country has failed somewhere, then, too the people must take the blame. India has progressed through ages of depravation, through international deceit and beyond the world’s opinions.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi presents the nation’s vision to the world at the Red Fort, he will have with him the power of the accumulated wisdom of decades. That goes beyond petty nationalism, beyond politics, beyond religion, beyond caste and creed, beyond societal statuses. This is the wisdom that has been filtered down from experiences, from millions of trials and errors that has given rise to a nation, finally the toast of Asia, the toast of the world.
Those were the days when kings and emperors built statues, temples, tombs and iron pillars for people to remember them by. Today the task is different: the leader wants to build the nation, by which we mean that he intends to build the people into those who are remembered, held in high esteem. They are the ones who will be more remembered than the number of wars won, the size of the armed forces, the size of the basket of currencies in the treasury.
Early on, India invested in its people. It created institutes of merit that produced people of merit, leaders of merit and the nation prospered. While Neeraj Chopra was winning his gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, a clutch of famous cricketers, including Sunil Gavaskar, were watching. As Chopra hit gold, Gavaskar stood up and started singing the famous song by Mahendra Kapoor from the film Upkaar: “Yeh desh ki dharti sona ugle, ugle hire moti…” What a prefect expression to laud our country, what thought to hold close to our hearts and pay our respects to those who have made our country great.
Yes, this country has produced people who have become Nobel Laureates, people who have dedicated their lives for the benefit of others. Stories of selflessness emerge from unexpected quarters. Stories of immense struggle can be found in the most uncommon places.
As we move into the 75th year of Independence, we will have responsibilities. We will have to take our experiences, gleaned from the cruel pandemic and prepare for a possible third wave. We will have to realise that, as citizens, we are not just responsible for ourselves, but also responsible for the welfare of our families and our neighbours and the entire mohallah we live in, possibly the entire country. We will have take stance for the next delivery that nature may send us. It will surely be a wicked swinger off the seam. We must be prepared.
August 15 celebrations this year will be muted, and rightly so. There will also be the scare of terrorist attacks, a threat we have lived with for long and will probably keep living alongside for a while now. Drone attack threats have emerged from the Jammu & Kashmir experience, and there will be no stone unturned in security efforts. But that hardly means that the celebrations will be discontinued. Muted, but not discontinued; a show of the power of the state to live with threats and neutralise them.
This is also a lesson to be learnt. The indomitable spirit of the nation also shows up in the way a nation can handle external and internal threats. This is the new world order; sad but true. The country must regroup and reorganise, my rally towards democracy, come what may. This is the message of a resurgent India, an unputdownable people.